International Women’s Day: are women getting sick of it?

International women’s day has come round again, although this year, women seem less likely than ever to be passively grateful for having the spotlight shone on them in the name of equality.

Vicki Maguire, Havas London CCO, sums it up in a tweet: “Beginning to feel like a fat bearded old white man in December. IWD approaches and suddenly everyone wants me to talk to them. For free.”

Advertising is still part of the problem. CreativeX analysed 10,000 ads and found that 66% of women in ads in 2022 were shown in a domestic setting, up from 32% in 2021. The percentage of women portrayed in professional settings was just 7% in 2022, down from 16% in 2021.

Anastasia Leng, founder and CEO of CreativeX, said “This is a historic time for women: we have our first US female Vice President, 27 countries with a female leader, and a record of female CEOs among the Fortune 500. Yet we still struggle to create representative advertising. The industry expresses good intentions to build more representative content yet struggles to implement change at scale.”

IWD can be a helpful moment to #EmbraceEquity – this year’s theme – but there’s a lot of virtue signalling around. Women’s creative network SheSays has called this out with a mental-health focused campaign, “Why has she gone?” featuring resignation letters that cite reasons they quit, such as being labelled “bossy” and “dramatic” for expressing an opinion.

The Pay Gap Bot, whose motto is “Stop posting platitudes. Start fixing the problem,” is once again doing fine service naming and shaming on Twitter – as well as highlighting genuine equality. It retweets companies’ rousing IWD posts alongside their gender pay figures.

Deloitte UK announces, “Gender shouldn’t define who you are” despite a 13% and rising pay gap. Emirates Airlines (34.2% gap) celebrates women’s role in entertainment, Lloyds Bank (40.9%) promotes an online IWD event, and Huawei (20.7%) celebrates female leadership.

LinkedIn notes a 27% rise in companies posting IWD content between 2021 and 2022, coupled with an 80% increase in engagement in those posts. It’s an opportunity to share women’s achievements in business, but companies should be aware that a LinkedIn Gender Pay Bot could be lurking in wait.

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